The CFPB recently issued revised TILA/RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID) rule guides to reflect the adoption of an amendment to the rule to fix the so-called “black hole” issue.  As we reported previously, the amendment will permit the use of an initial or revised Closing Disclosure to reset tolerances without regard to the timing of when before consummation the creditor learns of a change that causes one or more fees to increase.  The amendment will apply to transactions in process as of June 1, 2018 regardless of when the loan application was received, but the amendment may not be applied retroactively.

The CFPB updated both versions of the Small Entity Compliance Guide and the Guide to Forms.  The reason there are two versions of each guide is to account for the TRID rule amendments adopted last summer that became effective on October 10, 2017, but have a mandatory compliance date of October 1, 2018.  While both versions of each guide now reflect the 2018 TRID rule amendment, one version of each guide does not reflect the 2017 amendments and one version of each guide reflects the 2017 amendments.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently announced that it will “formally seek the public’s comment on whether its 2013 Disparate Impact Regulation is consistent with the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc.

As we reported previously, the regulation provides that liability may be established under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) based on a practice’s discriminatory effect (i.e., disparate impact) even if the practice was not motivated by a discriminatory intent, and that a challenged practice may still be lawful if supported by a legally sufficient justification.  Under the regulation a practice has a discriminatory effect where it actually or predictably results in a disparate impact on a group of persons or creates, increases, reinforces, or perpetuates segregated housing patterns because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.  The regulation also addresses what constitutes a legally sufficient justification for a practice, and the burdens of proof of the parties in a case asserting that a practice has a discriminatory effect under the FHA.

While the Supreme Court held in its Inclusive Communities Project opinion that disparate impact claims may be brought under the FHA, it also set forth limitations on such claims that “are necessary to protect potential defendants against abusive disparate impact claims.”  In particular, the Supreme Court indicated that a disparate impact claim based upon a statistical disparity “must fail if the plaintiff cannot point to a defendant’s policy or policies causing that disparity” and that a “robust causality requirement” ensures that a mere racial imbalance, standing alone, does not establish a prima facie case of disparate impact, thereby protecting defendants “from being held liable for racial disparities they did not create.”  Significantly, while the Inclusive Communities Project opinion held that liability may be established under the FHA based on disparate impact, the disparate impact claim against the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs was later dismissed by the District Court based on the limitations on such impact claims prescribed by the Supreme Court in its opinion.

We have previously reported on a challenge to the HUD regulation by the American Insurance Association and National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies in the federal district court for the District of Columbia.  The trade associations assert that the regulation is not consistent with the limitations on disparate impact claims set forth by the Supreme Court its Inclusive Communities Project opinion.  A status conference was held on May 10, 2018, and HUD filed a notice with the court advising of its intent to solicit comment on the regulation.  The upcoming HUD request for comment will provide the opportunity for the mortgage industry and other interested parties to address whether the regulation reflects the limitations set forth by the Supreme Court and other concerns with the regulation.

We will report on the HUD request for comment once it is released, and hold a webinar on the request following its release.

As we reported previously, the CFPB recently adopted a long-awaited amendment to the TILA/RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID) rule that fixes the so-called black hole issue.

The amendment was published in the May 2, 2018 Federal Register and will become effective on June 1, 2018.  The CFPB notes in the supplementary information to the amendment that “[o]nce the final rule becomes effective, the ability to reset tolerances prior to consummation for a given transaction will not be limited by when the application was received.”  Thus, as of June 1, 2018 the flexibility created by the amendment regarding the use of a Closing Disclosure to reset tolerances will be available for both loan applications that are in process at the time, as well as loan applications made on and after such date.  However, the CFPB also made clear that the amendment may not be applied retroactively.

The CFPB, which is now referring to itself as the “Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection,” published the long-awaited final rule to address the so-called “black hole” issue under the TILA/RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID) rule.  The CFPB also issued an Executive Summary of the final rule.  The final rule will become effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

Under the TRID rule, a Loan Estimate is the disclosure primarily used to reset tolerances. Because the final revised Loan Estimate must be received by the consumer no later than four business days before consummation, the Commentary to the TRID rule includes a provision under which a creditor may use a Closing Disclosure to reset tolerances if “there are less than four business days between the time” a revised Loan Estimate would need to be provided and consummation.  Because of the four-business-day timing element, in various cases when a creditor learns of a change, the creditor is not able to use a Closing Disclosure to reset tolerances.  This situation is what the industry termed the “black hole.”  The industry repeatedly asked the CFPB to address the black hole issue.  As previously reported in our Mortgage Banking Update, when the CFPB finalized various amendments to the TRID rule last summer, it punted on a prior proposal to address the black hole issue and proposed another rule to address the issue.  The CFPB has now finalized the second proposal.

In the final rule the CFPB removes the four business day timing element, and makes clear that either an initial or a revised Closing Disclosure can be used to reset tolerances.  Consistent with the requirements for the Loan Estimate, when the TRID rule permits a creditor to use a Closing Disclosure to revise expenses, the creditor must provide the Closing Disclosure within three business days of receiving information sufficient to establish that a changed circumstance or other event triggering a change has occurred.

When proposing the amendment last summer, the CFPB requested comments on whether it should impose additional limits on the ability of a creditor to reset tolerances with a Closing Disclosure, such as allowing a reset of tolerances only in certain of the circumstances currently permitted by the TRID rule.  The CFPB decided not to impose additional limits.

In notices published in today’s Federal Register, the CFPB adjusted the thresholds of the asset-size exemptions for collecting HMDA data and establishing an escrow account for certain mortgage loans under TILA.

Pursuant to Regulation C, which implements HMDA, depository institutions with assets below an annually adjusted threshold are exempt from HMDA data collection requirements.  In its notice, the CFPB increased the 2017 threshold of $44 million to $45 million for 2018.  Thus, depository institutions with assets of $45 million or less as of  December 31, 2017 will be exempt from collecting HMDA data in 2018.  (An institution’s exemption from collecting data in 2018 does not affect its duty to report data it was required to collect in 2017.)

Regulation Z, which implements TILA, requires creditors to establish an escrow account to pay property taxes and insurance premiums for certain first-lien higher-priced mortgages.  The rule contains an exemption for creditors that operate predominantly in rural or underserved areas that meet certain other criteria, including an annually adjusted asset-size threshold.  In its notice, the CFPB increased the 2017 threshold from $2.069 billion to $2.112 billion for 2018.  Thus, loans made by creditors with assets of less than $2.112 billion on December 31, 2017 that operate predominantly in rural or underserved areas and meet the other exemption criteria will be exempt in 2018 from the TILA escrow account requirement for higher-priced mortgage loans.  The adjustment will increase the similar Regulation Z threshold for small-creditor portfolio and balloon-payment qualified mortgages.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently posted on its website updated versions of guidance in connection with the revisions to the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) rules that become effective on January 1, 2018.

The CFPB updated the key dates timeline, 2018 HMDA institutional coverage chart and 2018 HMDA transactional coverage chart to reflect the temporary increase in the threshold to report home equity lines of credit (HELOCs). In the original version of the revised HMDA rules, an institution that made at least 100 HELOCs in each of the prior two years would need to report HELOCs for the current reporting year.  For example, an institution that made at least 100 HELOCs in each of 2016 and 2017 would have to collect and report data on HELOCs for 2018.  As previously reported, the CFPB temporarily increased the threshold from 100 to 500 HELOCs for 2018 and 2019, and will assess the appropriate reporting threshold to be implemented in 2020.

The CFPB has issued its January 2017 complaint report that highlights mortgage complaints.  The report also highlights complaints from consumers in Tennessee and the Memphis and Nashville metro areas.

General findings include the following:

  • As of January 1, 2017, the CFPB handled approximately 1,080,700 complaints nationally, including approximately 22,900 complaints in December 2016.
  • Debt collection continued to be the most-complained-about financial product or service in December 2016, representing about 31 percent of complaints submitted.  Debt collection complaints, together with complaints about credit reporting and mortgages, collectively represented about 65 percent of the complaints submitted in December 2016.
  • Complaints about student loans showed the greatest percentage increase based on a three-month average, increasing about 109 percent from the same time last year (October to December 2015 compared with October to December 2016).  In February 2016, the CFPB began accepting complaints about federal student loans.  Previously, such complaints were directed to the Department of Education.  As we have noted in blog posts about prior complaint reports issued beginning in April 2016, rather than reflecting an increase in the number of borrowers making student loan complaints, the increase most likely reflects the change in where such complaints are sent.
  • Prepaid card complaints showed the greatest percentage decrease based on a three-month average, decreasing about 59 percent from the same time last year (October to December 2015 compared with October to December 2016).  Complaints during those periods decreased from 458 complaints in 2015 to 189 complaints in 2016.  Prepaid cards also showed the greatest decrease based on a three-month average in the November and December 2016 complaint reports.
  • Payday loan complaints in December 2016 were 23 percent less than payday loan complaints in November 2016, representing the product with the greatest month-over-month decrease in complaints.
  • Alaska, Georgia, and Louisiana experienced the greatest complaint volume increases from the same time last year (October to December 2015 compared with October to December 2016) with increases of, respectively, 357,46, and 32 percent.
  • Wyoming, Vermont, and Delaware experienced the greatest complaint volume decreases from the same time last year (October to December 2015 compared with October to December 2016) with decreases of, respectively, 20, 19, and 12 percent.

Findings regarding mortgage complaints include the following:

  • The CFPB has handled approximately 260,500 mortgage complaints.
  • The CFPB found a trend of consumers increasingly identifying issues relating to the issue of “making payments” (which covers loan servicing, payments, escrow accounts).
  • Consumers reported issues involving escrow account shortages, such as the misapplication of funds resulting in an increase in the monthly payment and a lack of explanation for shortages. Other escrow-related issues included the servicer’s purchase of hazard insurance despite the consumer’s provision of proof of coverage and the servicer’s failure to timely submit insurance payments resulting in inadequate coverage.
  • Consumers complained about the loss of timely payments by servicers resulting in negative credit reporting and improper crediting by servicers of electronic monthly payments made via bill pay services through their financial institutions..
  • Consumers attempting to negotiate loss mitigation assistance complained that servicers were slow to respond, made repeated requests for already submitted documents, and provided ambiguous denial reasons.

Findings regarding complaints from Tennessee consumers include the following:

  • As of January 1, 2017, approximately 17,800 complaints were submitted by Tennessee consumers of which approximately 4,700 and 5,800 were from Memphis and Nashville consumers, respectively.
  • Debt collection was the most-complained-about product, representing 34 percent of all complaints submitted by Tennessee consumers, which was higher than the national average rate of 27 percent of all complaints submitted by consumers.
  • Average monthly complaints received from Tennessee consumers increased 8 percent from the same time last year (October to December 2015 to October to December 2016), higher than the increase of 12 percent nationally.

The CFPB’s Fall 2016 rulemaking agenda has been published as part of the Fall 2016 Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions.  The preamble indicates that the information in the agenda is current as of October 19, 2016.  Accordingly, given the results of the Presidential election, including its potential impact on the CFPB’s leadership, there is likely to be a post-election reevaluation by the CFPB of its agenda.  The agenda sets the following timetables for key rulemaking initiatives:

Arbitration.  The CFPB released its proposed arbitration rule in May 2016 and the comment period ended on August 22, 2016.  The Fall 2016 agenda indicates that the CFPB “is reviewing and considering comments on the proposed rule” as it “considers development of a final rule for early 2017.”  The agenda gives a February 2017 estimated date for a final rule.  In recent days, we have heard speculation that the CFPB will issue a final rule before Donald Trump’s inauguration as President on January 20.  As we discussed in a recent blog post, a final arbitration rule or other new final rules issued by the CFPB (and potentially any final rules issued since late May 2016) could be nullified by Congress under the Congressional Review Act (CRA).  The CRA establishes a special set of procedures that allow Congress to pass a joint resolution disapproving a rule which cannot be filibustered in the Senate and can be passed by only a simple majority vote.

Payday, title, and deposit advance loans.  The CFPB released its proposed rule on payday, title, and high-cost installment loans in June 2016 and the comment period ended on October 22, 2016.  While there has also been speculation that the CFPB will attempt to finalize a rule by January 20, that possibility seems more remote given the unprecedented level of comments (approximately one million) received by the CFPB and the complexity of the proposed rule.  The Fall 2016 agenda does not give an estimated date for a final rule.

Debt collection.  In November 2013, the CFPB issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking concerning debt collection.  In July 2016, it issued an outline of the proposals it is considering in anticipation of convening a SBREFA panel.  It has been reported that the SBREFA panel for the CFPB’s debt collection rulemaking met with small entity representatives (SER) at the end of August 2016.  Within 60 days from the date it is considered to have “convened,” the panel must submit a report to the CFPB on the input received from the SERs.  However, the report will not become public until the CFPB issues its proposed rule.

The CFPB’s proposals only cover “debt collectors” that are subject to the FDCPA.  They are not intended to apply to a first-party creditor collecting its own debts or to a servicer when collecting debts that were current when servicing began to the extent the creditor or servicer would not be a “debt collector” under the FDCPA.  When it issued the proposals, the CFPB stated that it “expects to convene a second proceeding in the next several months” for creditors and others engaged in debt collection not covered by the proposals, noting that it believes a separate SBREFA process “is the most efficient way to proceed, particularly because it will allow participants to provide more focused and specific insights.”

In the Fall 2016 agenda, the CFPB states that it “expects to convene a separate SBREFA proceeding focusing on companies that collect their own debts in 2017.”  The agenda gives a February 2017 estimated date for further prerule activities.

Overdrafts.  The CFPB issued a June 2013 white paper and a July 2014 report on checking account overdraft services.  In the Fall 2016 agenda, as it did in its Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 agendas, the CFPB states that it “is continuing to engage in additional research and has begun consumer testing initiatives related to the opt-in process.”  Although the Spring 2016 agenda estimated an August 2016 date for further prerule activities, the new agenda moves that date to January 2017.  As we have previously noted, the extended timeline may reflect that the CFPB feels less urgency to promulgate a rule prohibiting the use of a high-to-low dollar amount order to process electronic debits because most of the banks subject to its supervisory jurisdiction have already changed their processing order.

Larger participants.  As it did in its Fall 2015 and Spring 2015 agendas, the CFPB states in the Fall 2016 agenda that it is considering “larger participant” rules “in markets for consumer installment loans and vehicle title loans for purposes of supervision.”  It also repeats its previous statement that the CFPB is “also considering whether rules to require registration of these or other non-depository lenders would facilitate supervision, as has been suggested to the Bureau by both consumer advocates and industry groups.”  (Pursuant to Dodd-Frank Section 1022, the CFPB is authorized to “prescribe rules regarding registration requirements applicable to a covered person, other than an insured depository institution, insured credit union, or related person.”)  While the Spring 2016 agenda estimated a December 2016 date for prerule activities, the new agenda estimates a May 2017 date.

Small business lending data.  Dodd-Frank Section 1071 amended the ECOA to require financial institutions to collect and maintain certain data in connection with credit applications made by women- or minority-owned businesses and small businesses.  Such data include the race, sex, and ethnicity of the principal owners of the business.  While the Spring 2016 agenda estimated a December 2016 date for prerule activities, the new agenda estimates a March 2017 date.  The CFPB states in the Fall 2016 agenda that it “is focusing on outreach and research to develop its understanding of the players, products, and practices in business lending markets and of the potential ways to implement section 1071.  The CFPB then expects to begin developing proposed regulations concerning the data to be collected and determining the appropriate procedures and privacy protections needed for information-gathering and public disclosure under this section.”

Mortgage rules.  In July 2016, the CFPB issued a proposed rule containing both substantive amendments and technical corrections to the final TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure rule.  The comment period on the proposal ended on October 18, 2016 and the Fall 2016 agenda gives a March 2017 estimated date for issuance of a final rule.  The Fall 2016 agenda gives a March 2017 estimated date for a proposed rule “to amend certain provisions of Regulation C to make technical corrections and to clarify certain requirements under Regulation C” and a proposed rule “to amend Regulation B to reconcile how creditors may collect information about the ethnicity and race of applicants to clarify how financial institutions and creditors subject to Regulation C and Regulation B may comply with both regulations.”

Student Loan Servicing and Consumer Reporting.  As they were in the Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 agendas, both of these topics continue to be listed in the Fall 2016 agenda as “long-term action” items with no estimated dates for further action.  The Office of Management and Budget defines “long-term action” items as “items under development but for which an agency does not expect to have a regulatory action within 12 months after publication of this edition of the Unified Agenda.”

The D.C. Circuit issued its long-awaited decision in PHH Corporation v. CFPB. In reversing the decision of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Cordray to impose an enhanced penalty of $109 million on PHH for its use of a captive (wholly-owned) mortgage reinsurer, the court made several landmark rulings.

First, it held that the CFPB’s single-director-removable-only-for-cause structure is unconstitutional. The court held that it was a violation of Article II for the CFPB to lack the “critical check” of presidential control or the “substitute check” of a multi-member governance structure necessary to protect individual liberty against “arbitrary decisionmaking and abuse of power.” The court remedied this constitutional defect by severing the removal-only-for-cause provision from the Dodd-Frank Act. Under the ruling, Director Cordray now serves at the will of the President and is subject to supervision and management by the President. In a footnote, the court acknowledged that this may create some fallout in other cases, but left it for other courts to address.

It also rejected the CFPB’s argument that statutes of limitations do not apply to its administrative enforcement actions. The court’s holding was straightforward: If Congress had intended to alter the standard statute of limitations scheme, it would have said so. “[W]e would expect Congress to actually say that there is no statute of limitations for CFPB administrative actions . . . But the text of Dodd-Frank says no such thing.”

In addition, the court held that the plain language of RESPA permits captive mortgage re-insurance arrangements like the one at issue in the PHH case, if the mortgage re-insurers are paid no more than the reasonable value of the services they provide. This is consistent with HUD’s prior interpretation. For the first time in 2015, in prosecuting the case against PHH, the CFPB announced a new interpretation of RESPA under which captive mortgage reinsurance arrangements were prohibited. The court rejected this on the ground that the statute unambiguously allows the kinds of payments that the CFPB’s 2015 interpretation prohibited. We have blogged about the CFPB’s erroneous interpretation of the RESPA provisions at issue in this case.

Finally, the court further admonished the CFPB by alternatively holding that—even assuming that the CFPB’s interpretation was permitted under any reading of RESPA—the CFPB’s attempt to retroactively apply its 2015 interpretation, which departed from HUD’s prior interpretation, violated due process. It held that “the CFPB violated due process by retroactively applying that new interpretation to PHH’s conduct that occurred before the date of the CFPB’s new interpretation.”

Notably, the court explicitly declined to address the CFPB’s claim that each mortgage insurance payment made in violation of RESPA triggers a new three-year statute of limitations for that payment. The CFPB’s view on this point was one basis that allowed it to dramatically increase the penalties it sought from PHH. The court’s decision not to address this point in its opinion makes it likely that this will not be the last circuit court opinion required to resolve the case.

The opinion of the court also did not address one aspect of the CFPB Director’s prior decision that disgorgement of the entire amount of the premiums was required, without an offset for the claims paid, which had also added considerably to the penalty amount. The court states in footnote 24 that if a mortgage insurer paid more than reasonable market value for reinsurance, the disgorgement remedy is the amount that was paid above reasonable market value. The court did not expressly address the Director’s approach of ignoring the claims paid. The concurring/dissenting opinion by Judge Henderson does address this point, however, indicating that disgorgement must be reduced by the claims paid.

Because the opinion did not dismantle the CFPB, the court remanded the case to the CFPB for consideration of whether PHH violated RESPA as interpreted by HUD.